Which Nursing Career is Best: Telehealth vs. In-Person Care?

telehealth vs in-person care

It is natural to want the best possible healthcare for yourself and your family, whether visiting the doctor for a checkup or dealing with an injury or illness.  Traditionally, people would make an in-person visit to see the nurses and doctor in their office.  However, the rise of telehealth, especially during the pandemic, has changed the way people can receive healthcare.  Patients can now get consultations, diagnoses, and treatments without leaving their home.

Telehealth gives patients the option to visit with nurses and doctors at home and more healthcare facilities are adopting a hybrid model that includes in-person care and telehealth visits.  It is important for patients to understand the difference between telehealth and in-person care as well as when each type of visit is more appropriate.  In this guide, we discuss in-person care and telehealth, including the advantages and disadvantages of each, as well as key differences.  We also cover what the important differences between telehealth and in-person care mean from a healthcare provider’s perspective.  It is beneficial for doctors, patients, and telehealth nurses to have a complete grasp on how telehealth and in-person care differ.

Furthermore, we’ll also touch upon how these differences can influence nursing career paths in the evolving landscape of healthcare delivery.

What is In-Person Care?

In-person care is what we know as traditional healthcare that involves a visit to the healthcare provider and face-to-face contact with the doctors and nurses.  Patients can get a physical examination and diagnosis in this setting and receive direct care and treatment.  The face-to-face interaction of in-person care creates a personal connection between the patient and healthcare provider and the patient can immediately experience the effects of their treatment. In clinical terms, in-person care is also referred to as “Direct Care”. A registered nurse’s career typically involves direct patient care.

What are the Benefits of In-Person Care?

In-person care has been the main way to receive healthcare since humans have sought out healthcare.  The following are the major benefits of in-person care:

  • Personal physical examinations: When a patient appears in person, doctors and nurses can do thorough physical examinations to fully assess their health.
  • Accurate diagnoses: An in-person physical examination makes it possible for the doctor to make a more accurate diagnosis as they can recognize subtle symptoms and ailments better in person than through a telehealth visit.
  • Immediate clinical intervention: If a patient requires immediate medical attention after an examination, they can get immediate care in the facility. This can include treatment, surgery, medications, and other types of care that can be administered right away on-site.
  • Access to resources on-site: Patients who visit the doctor in person can have immediate access to resources on-site, including lab tests, medical equipment, and various healthcare specialists.

What are the Disadvantages of In-Person Care?

While there are major benefits to in-person care, it is also important to understand the disadvantages:

  • Waiting periods: It is common for there to be waiting periods for in-person care appointments which can be frustrating and cause patients to wait for needed medical care.
  • Resource restrictions: Hospitals and healthcare institutions that have limited resources may have longer wait times for nonemergency care.
  • Limited accessibility: Patients who live in remote areas or who have mobility issues or limited transportation options may not be able to easily access in-person care.
  • Increased risk of infections: Patients are more likely to be exposed to infectious pathogens at a healthcare facility, whether in treatment rooms or overcrowded waiting rooms. This is especially hazardous for patients with weakened immune systems.
  • Higher costs: In-person care visits may cost more due to overhead costs to maintain the facility and third-party fees from insurance companies. Patients may incur additional costs such as missing work and paying for transportation and childcare.

What is Telehealth?

Telehealth is a relatively new development in healthcare in which patients can receive medical care through digital technologies and communication.  Patients can have virtual consultations, share medical information, and receive remote monitoring without visiting a clinic in person.

Through telehealth, patients can safely access healthcare via phone consultations, secure messaging applications, and video chats.  This is especially beneficial for those who live in remote or undeserved areas, as well as those who do not have reliable transportation.  The use of telehealth grew during the pandemic, and it allows patients to engage in real-time communication and get immediate medical treatment and monitoring.

What are the Benefits of Telehealth?

There are many benefits to telehealth, especially as it continues to be used and adapts to patient preferences and needs.  The following are the main benefits of telehealth:

  • Increased accessibility: Telehealth helps overcome geographic barriers as those who live in rural or underserved areas can gain access to healthcare. Seniors who do not drive or have physical mobility issues also benefit from the increased accessibility of telehealth services.
  • Convenience: Patients can receive healthcare in the comfort of their homes without the need to travel or ensure long wait times. They also avoid the risk of exposure to illnesses or infections at healthcare facilities.
  • Reduced hospital admissions and readmission: Patients with chronic conditions can be monitored remotely, including their vital signs and general well-being, eliminating the need for them to spend time in the hospital. Remote monitoring can also alert doctors and nurses when there is a concern so they can react before the concern turns into a health crisis.  Healthcare providers can also remotely monitor patients after hospitalization to make sure they are following care instructions, taking their medications, and progressing in their recovery which reduces readmission.
  • Saves time and money: Eliminating the need to travel to a healthcare facility saves the time and money it takes to get there. Telehealth visits also typically have a lower cost than in-person visits.
  • Expanded healthcare provider options: Through telehealth, patients can visit with any type of healthcare provider they may need. Geographical location is no longer a barrier to patients seeking out specialists for their condition as well as healthcare providers that speak their native language.
  • Reduced strains on healthcare facilities: Allowing more patients to access healthcare via telehealth alleviates crowding and makes on-site resources more available in hospitals and healthcare facilities.

What are the Disadvantages of Telehealth?

Telehealth does offer significant benefits, but there are also disadvantages of telehealth that are important to consider:

  • Limitation of virtual examinations: With telehealth visits, healthcare providers cannot do a comprehensive physical examination like they can in person. It is easy for a healthcare provider to miss more subtle symptoms that they would notice with a hands-on examination.  This also leads to difficulty in diagnosing conditions and ailments.  In-person visits may be required for diagnosis.
  • Digital divide: Those who do not have access to a dependable internet connection and devices or technology that allow access to telehealth are at a disadvantage. Patients who have low technological literacy, including senior citizens who do not know how to use the technology, are also at a disadvantage.  Technological issues such as poor internet connections, software issues, and poor audio and video quality can be problems as well.
  • Concerns of privacy and inaccurate self-reporting: It can be difficult to ensure a secure connection and protect patient privacy as there is always a risk of unauthorized access. Healthcare providers also must rely heavily on how the patients describe their symptoms to make a diagnosis.  If patients cannot articulate their symptoms or describe them inaccurately, this can lead to an inaccurate diagnosis.
  • Limit to non-emergency visits: Telehealth visits are ideal for non emergency situations, but emergency situations require an in-person visit.
  • Inconsistencies with healthcare coverage: Patients who have inconsistent or insufficient health insurance coverage may have difficulty covering telehealth visits with their insurance. However, there are telehealth service options that do not require healthcare coverage.

Key Differences Between In-Person Care and Telehealth

In-person care and telehealth services each have key differences in the way the patient accesses and receives health care.  The biggest differences are in the following areas:

  • Physical presence: With telehealth services, the patient does not have to be physically present at the appointment but can instead complete the visit from home. In-person care requires the patient to be physically present at the clinic for examination and treatment.
  • Accessibility: Telehealth is accessible to those with geographical boundaries or limitations with mobility or transportation. In-person care may by less accessible to those with these boundaries.
  • Convenience: Telehealth allows patients to visit healthcare providers in the comfort of their homes without the need to travel. In-person care can become inconvenient, especially when making regular visits for checkups.
  • Diagnosis accuracy: It can be more difficult to get an accurate diagnosis through telehealth as healthcare providers can perform a thorough examination in person for a more accurate diagnosis.
  • Costs: Telehealth is more cost-effective because the visits are less expensive and the patient saves on additional expenses for travel, missing work and finding childcare. In-person visits generally cost more due to facility fees, overhead costs, and transportation costs.
  • Personal connection: The face-to-face encounters of in-person care help build a stronger personal connection between the patient and healthcare provider that cannot easily be replicated with telehealth.
  • Emergency situations: Emergency situations require the immediate hands-on medical attention that only in-person care can provide. Telehealth should only be used in non emergency situations.
  • Technology requirements: To take advantage of telehealth, patients must have access to a good internet connection as well as the devices and software to participate in virtual visits. They must also be savvy enough to use the technologies involved.  Those who do not have reliable internet or access to the software and devices needed must continue with in-person care.

Are Telehealth and Telemedicine the Same?

The terms telehealth and telemedicine are often used interchangeably, but they do not mean exactly the same thing.  Telehealth is a blanket term that describes all types of healthcare services administered via digital technology, which includes doctor visits, remote monitoring, checkups, and more.  Telemedicine is a type of telehealth in which specific services are provided to a patient via digital technology.  Telemedicine often involves medical care and does not include non-clinical services such as patient education which would be a type of service classified more broadly under telehealth.

How Do Telehealth Services Impact Healthcare Providers?

In-person care will always be a major part of what healthcare providers do, but many providers are incorporating telehealth and creating a hybrid model.  Like with patients, telehealth has its advantages and disadvantages for healthcare providers.

The following are the benefits of telehealth for healthcare providers:

  • See more patients: Telehealth allows healthcare providers to see more patients within a day. Healthcare professionals also do not have to account for turnover time between patients or time spent traveling.
  • Flexible work environment: Just as patients can do telehealth visits from the comfort of their home, so can the healthcare providers. This flexibility allows for better work-life balance, less traveling, and a decrease in the costs to maintain an office.
  • Greater reach: Healthcare providers that offer telehealth services can see patients over a wider geographical area. This is especially beneficial for specialists who can expand their reach.
  • Fewer missed appointments: Patients are less likely to miss telehealth appointments with potential barriers like traffic, weather, and transportation removed.

Healthcare providers must also consider the following disadvantages of providing telehealth services:

  • Accelerated burnout: Seeing more patients vie telehealth with no breaks that occur naturally between in-person visits can lead to burnout. It can also be draining to look at a screen all day.
  • Technical issues: Technical issues can pop up any time during telehealth visits which can be disruptive. Most healthcare professionals do not have the expertise to troubleshoot every technical issue they may encounter.
  • Decreased patient connection: While it is possible for patients and their healthcare providers to make a personal connection through telehealth, some patients may not feel the same connection they would with in-person care.

What is the Better Career Option, Telehealth Nurse, or In-Person Care?

The better career option between telehealth nurse or in-person care provider depends on the preferences of the individual nurse.  Some may prefer telehealth nursing positions because they offer greater flexibility and work-life balance and allow nurses to reach more patients over a larger geographical area.  However, other nurses may prefer to provide more hands-on care and make deeper connections with their patients, which is more likely to be done with in-person care.

The bottom line is that telehealth nurses and nurses that provide in-person care are both needed.  Nurses interested in telehealth nursing positions should weigh the advantages and disadvantages compared to in-person care before pursuing telehealth nurse jobs.

What to Do If You’re a Nurse Interested in Telehealth?

Individuals interested in pursuing a career as a telehealth nurse in the United States should follow five essential steps. Begin by completing the necessary education and training to become a registered nurse through accredited programs. Gain experience and specialize in telehealth care roles within the virtual healthcare sector. It is crucial to also obtain hands-on experience in the desired field before transitioning to telehealth. Telehealth nurses typically require an L.P.N. or R.N. degree and one to two years of experience in their specialized area. Stay updated on developments in the telehealth field to seize opportunities for becoming a telehealth nurse.

  1. Earn Your BSN Degree
  2. Successfully clear the NCLEX-RN Exam.
  3. Submit an application for state nursing licensure.
  4. Gain Experience with In-person Nursing Care
  5. Create a compelling nurse resume
  6. Apply for telehealth jobs

Search Telehealth Nurse Jobs On JobGraze

If you are a nursing professional, including an RN, LPN, or nurse practitioner, and you are interested in the flexibility of a career in telehealth, JobGraze can help you find telehealth nursing positions.  JobGraze is a platform that allows nursing professionals to find jobs across the U.S., including telehealth nurse jobs.  Nursing candidates can simply create a profile and search our platform for virtual nurse jobs that meet their specifications.  You can bookmark your favorite nurse job listings and apply directly through our platform.  JobGraze also helps healthcare providers find and hire telehealth nurses who will make a great fit to their medical care team.

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By Urmila Sharma

Urmila Sharma, Advanced Practice Registered Nurse, has had an incredible journey from a quiet village in New Delhi to becoming the Chief Healthcare Officer at JobGraze. Born and raised in a small village, Urmila always had a passion for helping others. Her brothers encouraged her to pursue nursing. In 2004, Urmila got the chance to work as a nurse in the United States. Moving there wasn't easy, but she worked hard to adapt to a new healthcare system. With support from her employer, she learned all about American nursing practices. Urmila's career flourished over the years. She even earned a Nurse Practitioner degree in 2017. Now, she inspires others, especially nurses interested in working abroad. At JobGraze, she helps connect healthcare workers from around the world. Urmila's story shows that with determination, you can achieve your dreams. Today, she continues to make a difference as a Nurse Practitioner in Diabetes at Sarasota Memorial Hospital.